Everything you need to know about H-1B Visa program

H-1B visa allows you to live and work in the US. But several important things must be kept in mind

By Peter Calabrese

H-1B Employment-Based Visa

The H-1B is a non-immigrant, employment-based visa that is granted to a temporary worker who meets specific eligibility requirements. The H-1B program allows employers to hire nonimmigrant aliens as workers in “specialty occupations”.

The intent is to help employers who cannot otherwise obtain needed professional skills and abilities from the US workforce by authorizing the temporary employment of qualified individuals who are not otherwise authorized to work in the United States.

Because this is a work visa that requires an employer sponsor, you must first find a US job classified as a “specialty occupation” by the USCIS and get the employer to agree to be your sponsor.

Read: Indians bagged 300,000 H-1B visas in FY 2021, 74% of total (April 18, 2022)

One of the notable specialty occupations that fall under the H-1B umbrella is fashion model. For all others, you must meet one of the following criteria to qualify to perform services in a specialty occupation:

  • Hold a US bachelor’s or higher degree required by the specialty occupation from an accredited college or university;
  • Hold a foreign degree that is the equivalent to a US bachelor’s or higher degree required by the specialty occupation from an accredited college or university; or
  • Hold an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification that authorizes you to fully practice the specialty occupation and be immediately engaged in that specialty in the state of intended employment

Understanding Key Differences

The H-1B programs can result in a visa that allows you to live and work in the US However, there are several important things to keep in mind

Temporary: H-1B is a temporary work visa. An H-1B specialty occupation worker or fashion model may be admitted to the US for a period of up to three years. That period can be extended, but it typically cannot be extended beyond a total of six years.

Work visa: H-1B is a work visa that requires an employer sponsor and proof of eligibility to qualify for a specialty occupation.

Timing: The processing time for an H-1B visa varies on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, a temporary visa could be granted within a few months.

However, the USCIS has capped the number of H-1B visas available each year at 65,000, with an additional 20,000 available for international students set to graduate from US institutions with a master’s degree or higher.

Read: H-1B initial electronic registration selection for FY 2023 completed (March 30, 2022)

Demand far outweighs the number of available visas. For example, USCIS received 308,613 electronic H-1B registrations for FY 2022 and 814 EB-5 Visa applications in FY 2021. Tighter restrictions and increased demand have made it more difficult to secure this type of visa.

Family members: H-1B program allows immediate family members of the visa holder (spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21) to reside in the US Family members of an H-1B visa holder must apply for their separate work visas.

Employer sponsor: H-1-B visas require an employer sponsor. What that means is that your fate in the US is linked to that employer, which puts your boss in a power position. Although there are laws to protect employers from abusing that position, they can constrain your choices.

In some cases, H-1B visa holders stay with a sponsor and miss out on job opportunities that would bring career advancement or higher pay. Additionally, that job also may impact where you and your family if you need to be close to that job.

(Peter Calabrese is CEO, CanAm Investor Services. CanAm has worked closely with over 6,000 immigrant families for the past 35 years. It exclusively operates seven USCIS-designated regional centers in California, Florida, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas.)

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